Updated: Jan 25
Long-eared Owl in Central Park on 8 December 2003 by Deborah Allen
Greetings from Kikinda, Serbia - the winter owl capitol of the world. Visiting with me by day are about 100 Long-eared Owls that sleep away in the town square (photo below) roosting in conifers and deciduous trees until they begin their fly out (4:35pm) to hunt mice in the endless miles of agricultural fields surrounding this town. This autumn-winter spectacle has been going on as long as anyone can remember here, and might be the greatest concentration of wintering owls anywhere on the planet. The Long-eared Owls begin to arrive in mid-October, with peak numbers in late December through mid-January. After that the owls gradually head north - so get here in early January [hello!] if you can. The owls will be happy if you do.
The 100 or so wintering Long-eared Owls (LEOs) this Dec-Jan in Kikinda have been on the low side: in some years up to 1500 spend the winter; an average year, about 800. Fortunately for much of western Europe, this has been a mild winter with very little snow. And the owls have voted with their feet, remaining north. But everyone comments on how much more abundant the LEOs were in the past (1980s), not only in the town square, but backyards of people too. The key is the trees: The surrounding farmland has very few tall trees, and certainly no conifers that I can find. Kikinda has both - and there are only people on foot in the town square - no cars - it's fairly quiet. Despite the occasional loud conversation, or boys yelling, I've watched the owls mostly sleep through it all.
Similarly in NYC, LEOs were common in some years: in the Bronx, in the early 1960s, approx. 60 LEOs spent the winter in the Cedar trees surrounding the Bartow-Pell Mansion in Pelham Bay Park. At night the LEOs headed to the construction area where "Freedomland" and subsequently, Co-Op, would be built: to hunt small mammals. In their wandering, most predators are amazing at finding an area loaded with food. Some folks reading this might remember the 1990s in Central Park when 4-6 LEOs annually spent the winter months in the tall Spruce trees on Cedar Hill, or one winter in the small Pine trees on the west side of Bow Bridge (approx 74th street on the lake). At night the owls would hunt small rodents, and we also found the bones of White-throated Sparrows in their pellets. Each day, hundreds of people walked under the LEOs near Bow Bridge who were perched perhaps ten feet high; no problem they continued to return to the same Pine trees day after day. The key was the abundance of food nearby - too good to give up I suppose. (There is a photo of a LEO pellet at the terminus of this Newsletter.) Here in Kikinda, so many pellets are coughed up each day, like fur balls as cats do...and so much white wash under the roost trees. The best way to find owls is to look down for evidence, and then look up to see sleeping owls. But why so many LEOs roost in deciduous trees (that retain many of their now brown leaves) is a mystery.
Long-eared Owl Kikinda (Serbia), 11 January 2023.
In our Historical Notes we send (a) a 1906 article on the Long-eared Owls of Flushing (Queens/NYC) written by Daniel Carter Beard (click), the co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America; in (b/c) a Long-eared Owl in Central Park of mid-January 1981 is described in the New York Times; in (d) the story of the December 2020 Long-eared Owl in Central Park that delighted many; in (e/f) we send a 1948 article about a Long-eared Owl that flew inside the 67th floor of the RCA Building (47th street/5th Ave = Rockefeller Center) while on migration that November, and combine it with a January 2018 article on a Long-eared Owl that collided with a building in mid-town Manhattan in late December 2017.
(below) Kikinda, Serbia (town square) In the pine tree are approximately 50 Long-eared Owls, and in the deciduous tree at right that rises above the many people at the ATM are another dozen LEOs. This is a "slow" year here [January 2023] with only about 100 total owls in groups scattered about the square. In a good year there are 1500 or so Long-eared Owls wintering here...and an average year there are about 800. Best time to visit is late December through mid-January. By late January, the owls begin to head north to nest.
(below) Long-eared Owl Kikinda (Serbia), 7 January 2023. This owl is perched in the deciduous tree [above; right next to yellow building] with another 11 of his cohorts. The People below the owls have no effect upon the sleeping owls. Note reddish eyes and light background color of the breast: compare to North American Long-eared Owls with their yellow eyes and darker overall color.
Bird Walks for Late January to mid-February 2023
All Walks @ $10/person
Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found: (Click) here
1. Sunday, 29 January at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle.
2. Sunday, 5 February at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle. Sandra Critelli will lead this morning's walk - Deb/Bob are in Morocco.
3. Sunday, 12 February at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle. Deb/Bob are in back from Morocco and looking forward to seeing everyone!
Call (718-828-8262/home) or Email us with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) until and including 30 October. Starting Sunday 6 November, we have 9:30am walks only meeting at the Dock on Turtle Pond. Check the Meeting Locations (CLICK HERE) page of our web site for detailed directions.
Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is (email@example.com). If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. Walks last about 2.5 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions or help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we aim to please. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; Please note: the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe (and even the outdoor Bathrooms) are CLOSED until March 2023.
Educational Sign at the Long-eared Owl Roost Site, Kikinda (Serbia)
(below) Long-eared Owl in the Bronx (2018). Note Yellow eyes (compare to the eye color
of the European Long-eared Owls herein). The last time Long-eared Owls nested in NYC was 1948 on Staten Island. In the NYC area in the last 10 years, the Long-eared Owl has become an uncommon to rare visitor primarily in November-January and again in March.
Here is what we saw last week - some brief highlights:
8 January 2012 (Sunday): The male American Kestrel near Tanner's Spring was wonderful...and the Hummingbird (Rufous) at the American Museum riveted everyone to the spot for a good half-hour. A few (three) Fox Sparrows, a Brown Creeper, American Goldfinches, Hooded Mergansers, and a Mockingbird or two - made everyone happy. We were not rolling in birds but there was enough to keep us going for the morning.
If you were birding Central Park in winter 2012, we did indeed have a male Rufous Hummingbird spend the winter feeding on the flowers of ornamental shrubs at the American Museum. Later the museum folks placed a hummingbird feeder there for the bird. Our group would arrive on Sundays at about 10am - at the west 81st (Planetarium) entrance and watch the Rufous Hummer up close - when people waiting on line asked us what we were looking at, we told them...but they did not believe us until they saw the hummer itself. Here is some of what we wrote about the Rufous Hummer at the time:
With the continued presence of the Rufous Hummer at the entrance to the American Museum (west 81st street - at Rose Planetarium), we decided to run some info on this species wintering in the eastern USA. During the last month there have been Rufous Hummers in Yonkers (Westchester Co., NY) and in Connecticut. Further afield, Jessica Schein sent us info on Rufous Hummingbird in urban Chicago in early January (2012).
Until a few years ago, most if not all of the local birding community thought that a wintering Hummingbird in the east was a rare or unusual occurrence. With the advent of the internet, we now realize that this is an annual event. Indeed up to 13 Hummingbird species can be found each winter in the eastern USA. And mucho info about the 13 hummingbird species that have been found in Louisiana can be found here (click):
...with exceptional information about Rufous Hummingbirds here (click):
A related question that everyone asks us, is "Can these hummers survive a winter in NY?" and the similar, "Can these western hummers, like the Rufous Hummer at AMNH, so far off course, survive and return to the west?" The answer to both questions is YES! If you read the articles linked to below, you will find several tales of western hummers that returned to the same eastern backyard in subsequent years. (We know this because people now band hummingbirds so their IDs can be confirmed with absolute certainty.) Please see the articles on Nancy Newfield's web page (click): she has been banding hummers for more than 35 years!
Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 8 January 2023: Not This Week!
Long-eared Owl at NYBG (the Bronx) on 17 February 2011 Deborah Allen
Cover Image Birdwatching Magazine in December 2017
(below) Eight Long-eared Owls in Kikinda (Serbia) on 11 January 2023
Long-eared Owls resident at Flushing, Long Island, N.Y. .
Some time ago  I wrote regarding the Barn Owls which formerly occupied a church steeple on Bowne Avenue in Flushing, Borough of Queens. It may be of interest to you to know that within a few hundred yards of my studio here on Bowne Avenue, there are now roosting six Long-eared Owls (Asio wilsonianus [now Asio otus]). This family of owls has been in and about this neighborhood for several years. They breed here, and this last season they wintered here. Probably they have done so all along. I have examined a number of their pellets and found in them nothing but the remains of mice with now and then the bones of an English sparrow. If this is the regular diet of these birds, which from different authorities consulted I infer to be a fact, it might be well to plant a colony of Long-eared Owls in every city and village in the United States. The birds roost in the thick foliage of an evergreen tree, but when watched too closely do not hesitate to leave the tree and fly about in broad daylight, and the manner in which they dodge obstructions when approaching their former perch, makes it evident that their eyesight is very good even in daylight.
Dan Beard, Flushing, N.Y.
(Daniel Carter Beard was a co-founder of the Boy Scouts. He founded Boy Scout Troop 1 in Flushing, New York, which is believed to be one of the oldest continuously chartered Boy Scout Troops in the United States. Junior High School 189 Daniel Carter Beard is located in Flushing, Queens, New York; the Daniel Carter Beard Mall is a nearby park.)
Dark and Light Morph Long-eared Owls at Kikinda, Serbia (2010)
OWL BREEZES IN FOR THE HOLIDAYS AND FINDS A CENTRAL PARK HOME
14 January 1981
Paul L. Montgomery
It's not the first one ever seen there, and bird watchers hope it won't be the last, but a lonesome long-eared owl is prowling Central Park these winter nights.
The wanderer apparently blew into town around Christmas - ''For the nightlife,'' suggested Rick Friesen, an actor and one of the few bird watchers to see it - and has been eking out a living since among the park's scattered wildlife.
When spotted yesterday afternoon the foot-tall owl was peering suspiciously from the topmost branches of a pine, opening its yellow eyes wide at a hand clap [!!!], and monitoring the indignant blue-jays screeching nearby. Owls, including the long-eared species, are relatively common in the suburbs but are rarely seen because they fly by night and hide during the day. Every year or so one of them will show up in the park, spend a few weeks and then depart on silent wings. The last sighting of owls devoted bird watchers in the park could remember was in October 1979, when a barn owl and a barred owl were found roosting together. Saw-whet owls, which look like little disconsolate bundles of feathers, have also been seen from time to time.
Last Christmas, Bill Edgar and Morris Swift, two park regulars, saw a long-eared owl near the Ramble. Owls of the same species are difficult to tell apart, but experts presume the one seen this week was the holiday visitor. The raptor's exact roosting place is being kept secret for fear harm will come to it. Sarah Elliott, co-author of the pamphlet ''Birds of Central Park,'' said during yesterday's owl stalk that she couldn't tell if it was a male or female. ''I can't sex owls by sight,'' she said. ''I don't think anybody can, except other owls.'' Long-eared owls generally feast on field mice and roost in groups. The Central Park habitue is solitary, and field mice there are in short supply, though there are plenty of rats. ''He seems nervous, maybe he doesn't have a full stomach,'' Miss Elliott said. ''Why is he here?'' the bird watcher was asked. ''Ultimately,'' she replied, ''you could ask that question of all of us.''
TOPICS; RARITIES; Bird of a Feather
16 January 1981
There is a long-eared owl roosting somewhere in Central Park. Judging by his feathers he's warmer than anyone else in town.
Judging by his stare he's amazed by what he sees. Or possibly she is amazed; only other owls know for sure. Long-eared owls are convivial; this owl is alone. They dine on field mice; this one must find an alternate cuisine. This owl is braving hardship to be here. This is an owl who loves New York.
It has long been axiomatic in city life that access to a tree is useful when navigating Central Park. Cynics may say that only a bird should try it. The cynics may also point to the reputation of owls and warn that a bad omen just breezed our way. Nonsense. A Long-eared Owl choosing residence in Central Park is a compliment to the landscape, a welcome vote of confidence.
Long-eared Owl in "relaxed" mode just before evening fly out 11 January 2023 (Kikinda)
(below) LEO disturbed and in "stressed" pose due to boys making noise (Kikinda)
New Owl Drop! A Stately Long-Eared in Central Park
15 December 2020
Did you see the owl? No, not the bundled-up little one in the Rockefeller Christmas tree; not the barred owl that was just weeks ago the most exciting avian celebrity in Central Park since the Hot Duck. There’s a new new owl [photo below by Deborah Allen], just dropped today, in what is starting to feel like a year of hoots in New York City: a stately long-eared owl was spotted in the park today, much to the excitement of followers of city birders.
Is there some sort sort of Hogwarts-ian thing going on in Central Park? Turns out it’s not magic: 11 out of New York State’s 12 species do show up in the city every once in a while. A wide-ranging species, the long-eared owl winters in East Coast states, including New York. Owls are tough to spot in general, and long-eared owls are particularly difficult to lay eyes on, but you can watch the Manhattan Bird Alert Twitter feed for sighting reports or head out for one of the upcoming owl walks led by the Bronx’s own bird expert, Dr. Robert DeCandido. The long-eared ones (those are tufts of feathers, not actual ears, by the way) are arriving right on time, too. If you’re an avid birder, they offer a moment of constancy in an inconstant year.
Long-eared Owl Central Park on 14 Dec 2020 D. Allen
An Owl Flies High, and then is Grounded
Bird Soars into a 67th floor window of RCA building, lands at the ASPCA
17 November 1948
If somebody had thought to measure the owl’s ears yesterday, when it flew into the sixty-seventh floor window of the RCA building, it might be easier to say what kind of owl it was and what it was doing in the skyscraper.
By its coloring – brown, black and grey – it might have fitted the loose “barn owl” description offered by a man at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter who looked it over at the animal hospital. But considering it was apparently matured, the owl, aloof in its own cage amongst dogs and cats, was too small to be a barn owl. It was only about eight inches tall.
A temporarily unoccupied drama critic heard about this owl and suggested it might be of the screech or short-eared owl variety. This one was about the height of those species and such owls are particularly fond of the city because their favorite food is pigeons.
He scoffed at the possibility that any owl that lives on citified pigeons might have forgotten how to fly and not be able to get to the sixty-seventh floor of a building without taking the elevator.
“It is a myth that city pigeons are pedestrians,” he said.
The unidentified owl also obstructed business at the Bronx Zoo, where the curator, Lee Crandall, refused to be pinned down with anything less than a full description. He said nothing could be divined from the fact that the owl had spurned lettuce. “Owls,” he said curtly, “are not rabbits.”
But a woman in his office – she was identified by her telephone voice – revealed that it would be safe to narrow the field down to the long-eared and the short-eared varieties. This types are either natives or transients headed south at this time. “Please don’t quote me,” she added.
Only two other persons might have examined the owl’s ears. One was a window washer named George Camal. He caught the bird when it flew into the office as he opened the window to work at about 9 A.M. Mr. Camal said that back in Mexico where he learned to catch birds he did not bother to look at their ears.
“You don’t catch a bird by its ears,” he explained.
Finally there was the publicity man for the RCA building who had called the ASPCA agent. He had not noticed the owl. “You may say,” he suggested, “that the owl created no disturbance in the building.”
Long-eared Owl NYBG (the Bronx) on 17 Feb 2011 D. Allen
Rescued Long-eared Owl released in Central Park
3 January 2018
NEW YORK (AP) — Two workers for a company that normally treats birds as pests to be eradicated instead became saviors when they rescued a Long-eared owl that had struck a building in midtown Manhattan [photo below].
Barry Beck, vice president of the pest control company Assured Environments, and employee Paul Abbatantuono, spotted the owl lying on a 14th floor setback while responding to a call last week.
The pair wrapped the injured foot-long owl in a fleece jacket and brought her via subway to the Wild Bird Fund, a non-profit that rehabilitates sick and injured wildlife in New York City.
After a couple of days of care, the owl was released in Central Park Monday under a supermoon.
Long-eared owls can be recognized by their distinctive ear tufts that point straight up like exclamation marks.
In this Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, photo, an injured female Long-eared Owl, who likely suffered a concussion after striking a window and was rescued from the 14th story of a midtown Manhattan building, is shown during intake before being treated at the Wild Bird Fund, a New York city-based wildlife rehabilitation center. The owl was treated with anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotic eye drops by the rehabilitation center and recovered over the weekend. She was released under a supermoon in New York's Central Park on New Years' Day. (Phyllis Tseng/Wild Bird Fund via AP)
Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD
(above) Pellet of Long-eared Owl in Kikinda - note small mammal bones
(above) Kikinda, Serbia (town square) In the Pine tree (center) are approximately 30 Long-eared Owls; in the deciduous tree behind it (next to the building) are three; and in the rear conifers are 10-20 in each tree. Starting at about 4:35pm the owls begin to fly out and head southwest to hunt mice and voles in the extensive agricultural fields near Kikinda town.